Biblical People

Biblical People: Samuel (1)

Some time later, we encounter Samuel. Those who grew up hearing Bible stories may remember the account of young Samuel. He is the son of Elkanah and Hannah.

His mother takes him to live at the temple and help Eli, the priest. Each year she visits him and gives him a little robe to wear. You may even recall a picture of the bright-eyed Samuel smiling as his mother gives him his new outfit.

This idyllic scene ignores the fact that Hannah commits Samuel to a lifetime of service before he is born; he has no say in the matter. This also requires him to leave his home to live with a stranger, a man who wasn’t a good father to his own sons.

How distraught young Samuel must have been over being separated from his mother and having his entire future planned for him.

Yet Samuel excels in this environment. As a young boy he can hear the voice of God, something few others can do in that day.

Though Eli is a priest, Samuel lacks the bloodline (a descendant of Aaron) to succeed him as priest. When Eli dies, however, Samuel replaces him as the leader of all Israel. The Bible also calls Samuel a prophet (a seer).

Up to this time, Israel did not have a king. God served as their king. And he used a series of judges to rescue his wayward people from their enemies and return their focus to him each time they fell away.

When Samuel grows older, he appoints his sons to take over for him. But they are corrupt, just like the sons of his mentor. Samuel must’ve learned his parenting skills from the inept Eli.

The elders go to Samuel and ask him to appoint a king to rule over the nation. This distresses Samuel, but the Almighty tells him it’s okay. The people aren’t rejecting Samuel’s leadership; they’re rejecting God’s.

Although reluctant, Samuel anoints Saul to be Israel’s first king, as directed by the Lord. When Saul later falters, God tells Samuel to anoint David to replace Saul. 

How do we react when we end up in a situation we didn’t choose? Whether our position is grand or humble, do we serve God to the best of our abilities, like Samuel?

[Read Samuel’s story in 1 Samuel 1–25. Discover more in Hebrews 11:32–34.]

Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at